We continue our series this week on ten benefits of faith to our mental health.
A sixth resource that comes with faith is the support it provides through community. Much depression and mental health problems are made worse by isolation and feeling we are suffering alone. To illustrate the point, it is known that there are higher rates of depression among those who are separated, divorced or alienated from friends and family (See A. Kheriaty, The Catholic Guide to Depression, Sophia Institute Press, New Hampshire 2012, 28). The problem is so acute that governments are taking action. In January this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the appointment to her cabinet of a ‘Minister of Loneliness’ to tackle a sad reality of modern life, namely the isolation of so many people. This problem is not confined to Britain but is endemic in much of Western society.
Christians believe in a God of relationship - of Father, Son and Holy Spirit who share a life of communion and love. Faith draws us into that communion of love, uniting us to God and to others who share that relationship with us. Here is the spirituality of communion which ‘means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the ‘Mystical Body’ and therefore as those who are part of me’ (Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 43). For all Christian Churches, a sense of welcome and belonging is fundamentally important along with the provision of times and spaces where people can meet, befriend each other and provide mutual support and encouragement. Here is the essence of parish and community life at the local level. Key to this common life is a spirituality of communion which connects us to both God and our fellow pilgrims who support us as we support them. Just as disturbance of relationship is a central feature of many mental health problems, so friendship, support and community are important contributors to a positive and healthy mind. Church communities can be and indeed should be places where people with mental health problems feel accepted and supported in the same way the community supports people with any other illness.
PART 7 NEXT WEEK